Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? -The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats
For about 4 years, my family's life has been spinning around off-center like one of my poorly-balanced pieces in ceramics class. I'd define our collective path as following pretty closely the "widening gyre."
My dad left my mom in the fall of 2000, going to California to try and secure a job and coming back to visit his 6 children in rural Montana infrequently and when funds allowed. My mother, a conservative nut of the militant sort and one of the most fervently religious people I've ever known, tried everything she could to mend their relationship - everything up to the point of abandoning her moral and religious beliefs. That was a line she wouldn't cross, and a path she wouldn't follow after her husband, even if it broke her heart.
The years since then have been chaotic. She worked for the census, climbing in status until the offices closed. She worked for a financial firm, staying up late and studying for her securities license exam and waking up early to help my brother with his paper route and get 5 kids dressed and ready to go. When she failed the exam, her boss let her go. She enrolled in the local university, deciding that the only way she could find a decent job to provide for her family would be to finish the degree she had been a semester from obtaining 25 years ago. Now she attends school full time, works 30 hours a week, and is the sole support for a trio of active small children and a wayward teenager still at home. Every other week something seems to go wrong. The car breaks down. The child support doesn't come for three months. The children get sick - one develops a hormonal disorder that requires a costly shot every month. Weirdos hit on her - seemingly nice men court and then abandon her. It seems to me, a college student 200 miles away, that family life is spinning out of control, hanging on to the center by a quickly unraveling thread.
I came home for the summer apprehensive about the atmosphere. I haven't lived here for five years and once swore to myself that I'd never return and subject myself to the small town gossip while I was still single. I couldn't handle my home's chaos and the constant catastrophes.
But in the few weeks I've lived here - amidst the chicken pox and the dead pet rabbits and the breakdowns and again being chronically late to everything - I've been surprised to discover that the center, that thread that was holding our spinning bulk so precariously, is a lot stronger than I had supposed.
I listened last night to my mother and her friends bear testimony of those things they believe that keep them from flying off the edge, out of control. This morning she had me compile the artwork she's done in school this semester on a website. It's not refined, it's rather amateur in fact, but I've been amazed as I contemplate the deep psychological content of it. I've opened a window into my mother's heart and been humbled by the strength and faith and resolve I find at its center amidst a tumultuous sea of pain and sadness and uncertainty.
I've decided to share her art with you as a tribute to her strength as my landmark post at 4000. None of the pieces are titled, their content is esoteric and personal, but they have a quiet psychological power that I respect and enjoy.
Thank you for being here for me, for being such a strong emotional and intellectual support system through the most turbulent years of my life. And here's to a future that's a lot brighter and center that holds no matter how chaotic the journey.
Posts: 8503 | Registered: Aug 1999
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Thank you for sharing her artwork. I especially loved the one with the sleeping woman in her bedroom and yet surrounded by a dreamscape. I really like how that one was done--the image just sticks with me.
I too, just the other day, was feeling so impressed at the faith of those around me. They didn't have faith because they knew everything was going to turn out OK (by "OK" I mean "the way they wanted"). They didn't know. But they have faith. It makes me wish my faith were stronger. And so often I wonder why my life is calm and simple while others have to worry and suffer so much.
*quickly counts blessings*
Thank you for sharing this about your mother and family.
Posts: 7050 | Registered: Feb 2004
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Did you know, that peom was former CIA director Richard Helm's favorite?
I'm so proud of you Annie, you've done great things in school, but you've done even better outside of it. Your sibilings are lucky to have you as a big sister, strong, compasionate, and right! And though you'll have to ask your Mom, I'm sure she would tell you that you've been a wonderful daughter (just as she is a wonderful mother ). I'm sorry your family has to go through all this, but I think they're absolutley great, and they all look like they'll come out the other end having learned and grown, which is what life's all about.
Thank-you Annie darling, for being such an inspiration!
As I read past the poem and into the problems you and your family are having, I couldn't help but put myself in the same situation and said to myself silently that I would most definitely turn to my faith. I was glad to hear that you and your mother find some solace in your faith, and the ties that bind, although frayed and worn at times, have a lasting ability to hold strong even in the most difficult of times.
I MOVED home to a small town of 8000 from Chicago, so I can appreciate the odd feeling of entrapment that a move like that can make.
But most of all, I wish you and your family the best and I have a feeling, that with you home for the summer, you will find a way to weave your own thread into those ties that bind, further anchoring that center.
Posts: 1870 | Registered: Mar 2003
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It's funny to read your post now Annie as I watch my own mom battle her way through some amazing and debilitating battles. It's so hard to be here and not be able to do anything, to see her get so upset and try to think of a solution...my stomach has been in knots for days.
I appreciate your post and your mom's beautiful artwork. I really like it and I can tell that valuable pieces of her are invested in each work. It somehow made me feel better, at least in the fact that I'm not alone.
Thanks for being you and for sharing this with us. (((Anneke)))
Posts: 6415 | Registered: Jul 2000
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Annie... you are a wonderful person. You know that don't you. Sure you do. Your mother is a wonderful person. I can see where you get your strength from. Thank you for sharing your mother's gift with us. To me, everything she draws sings "her family" and how she sees you all.